Overflow of cold water across the Iceland-Faroe Ridge through the Western Valley

Bogi Hansen, Karin Margretha Húsgarð Larsen, Steffen Malskær Olsen, Detlef Quadfasel, Kerstin Jochumsen, Svein Østerhus

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The Iceland-Faroe Ridge (IFR) is considered to be the third-most important passage for dense overflow water from the Nordic Seas feeding into the lower limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation with a volume transport on the order of 1 Sv (10 6  m 3  s −1 ). The Western Valley, which is the northernmost deep passage across the IFR, has been presumed to supply a strong and persistent overflow (WV-overflow), contributing a large fraction of the total overflow across the IFR. However, prolonged measurements of this transport are so far missing. In order to quantify the flow by direct measurements, three instrumental packages were deployed close to the sill of the Western Valley for 278 days (2016–2017) including an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler at the expected location of the overflow core. The average volume transport of WV-overflow during this field experiment was found to be less than 0.03 Sv. Aided by the observations and a two-layer hydraulic model, we argue that the reason for this low value is the inflow of warm Atlantic Water to the Norwegian Sea in the upper layers suppressing the deep overflow. The link between deep and surface flows explains an observed relationship between overflow and sea level slope as measured by satellite altimetry. This relationship, combined with historical hydrographic measurements allows us to conclude that the volume transport of WV-overflow most likely has been less than 0.1 Sv on average since the beginning of regular satellite altimetry in 1993. Our new direct measurements do not allow us to present an updated estimate of the total overflow across the IFR, but they indicate that it may well be considerably less than 1 Sv.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-885
Number of pages15
JournalOcean Science
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2018


  • Physical oceanography
  • Ocean circulation
  • AMOC


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